Real Salt Lake moved to the top of Major League Soccer’s Western Conference with a 2-1 win against title rivals Seattle Sounders FC at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.
A rare headed conversion for diminutive forward Joao Plata and an Osvaldo Alonso own-goal set the Royals on their way to a sixth game without defeat on home turf, but they had to survive a late flurry after the Sounders had pulled one back through Chad Barrett.
Impressive home record
Other than a run of four reverses in six matches between May and July, Real have enjoyed an excellent season and can boast a phenomenal home record, with Seattle’s rivals Portland Timbers the only visiting team to triumph in Salt Lake City.
It took less than two minutes for Plata to slalom past a pair of challenges and test Stefan Frei with a dipping drive. He immediately created another chance that was spurned by Luke Mulholland, but the hosts weren’t able to keep the pressure up as the Rave Green grew into the game.
Brad Evans should have got a show away when found by Lamar Neagle in yards of space, but the 29-year-old’s clumsy control allowed international teammate Nick Rimando to intercept. Neither side was able to establish dominance though, as dangerous centres at each end narrowly avoided onrushing attackers.
Finally, the Sounders offered a threat in the moments before half-time as Leo Gonzalez fizzed narrowly wide and Clint Dempsey nodded into the goalkeeper’s hands. However, they were thankful to their own stopper in the 45th minute, with Frei keeping out Plata’s delivery and the ricochet that followed from Chad Marshall.
The Ecuadorian wasn’t to be denied after the restart though, extending every inch of his five-foot-two frame to meet Mulholland’s set-piece and crash a header into the roof of the net. Four minutes later, the lead was doubled.
Mulholland was again the initiator, but as he ran onto Luis Gil’s intricate pass, Osvaldo Alonso got their first and nudged the ball into his own goal.
But a remarkable play then saw Seattle regain a foothold in the match in the 72nd minute, with Barrett eventually scoring. Rimando blocked from Dempsey, and when Andy Rose failed to add to his midweek two-goal haul with a flick against the post, the Californian slammed home from a yard out.
Dempsey went close to another with a powerful curler from distance, before Marshall battered an attempt into the side-netting. There was to be no further breakthrough though, and the men from the Emerald City have now lost four of their last six.
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